The Cat Box

You’ll always find something of interest in the Cat Box

The Politics of Food — September 27, 2012

The Politics of Food

Greek headlines declare “Minor scuffles broke out Wednesday between demonstrators and police in Athens as thousands of Greeks took to the streets to protest new austerity measures that many critics describe as draconian.”

Greeks demonstrate against austerity measures

What could be a more exciting political expression than demonstrations in the street? Well, according to the new Greek website Gine Agrotis, food is. Gine Agrotis translates to “Become a Farmer!” in English, and the website says that “What and how we eat reflects positions we have taken on a range of social, health and environmental issues.”

What we are talking about here are CSA gardens aligned with social networking. The initiative is based on an innovative and disruptive business model that leverages the potential of a social networking platform to connect local  farmers, in large part young farmers, directly with consumers. So the farmers make more money because the middleman is cut out. Gine Agrotis was founded by Dimitris Koutsolioutsos, a 26-year-old graduate of the Athens University of Economics and Business. Koutsolioutsos rightly sees this initiative as an attempt to “break the market”, and a way to offer “a better quality of life to the city’s residents” through fresh healthy food provided at better prices than the traditional model can offer.

They also throw around ideas about planting locally to reduce the carbon footprint of food production and tying urban gardeners more directly to the process of growing their own food. Where have we heard this before???

I learned of the Gine Agrotis website from a blog called Good Greek Stuff http://goodgreekstuff.wordpress.com and was very interested to find this sunshiny development tucked inside the grey clouds of the present Greek economic problems. This very cool blog gives a look at this project of Dimitris Koutsolioutsos, and a look at a different kind of political revolution not being covered by international news companies.

Check out Good Greek Stuff and this story that illustrates something wonderful that we all have in common. Then visit the Gine Agrotis website at http://www.gineagrotis.gr/ where they accommodatingly will translate the website from Greek to English for us.

Local Goodness — September 16, 2012

Local Goodness

Fresh–picked baby kale, lightly sautéed in grape seed oil with garlic, and topped with two beautiful eggs laid by a friendly neighborhood chicken.

Local fresh eggs on local fresh kale
Yes that’s bacon, but just enough for your bacon fix.

I knew this kale was going to be good when I saw it lying purple and supple and freshly picked in a basket at the Sunnyside Farm Market at 44th and Vallejo in Sunnyside when I got there Saturday morning.

I was greeted at the garden gate by a smiling Lisa Rogers who showed me, one by one the treasures offered up by her magical urban garden this week. I had the good sense to immediately claim all of the kale that she had and a stunning array of little bitty tomatoes. I picked out a beautiful Italian zucchini to make squash ribbon salad out of and a handful of purple pole beans that I plan to blanche and incorporate into a veggie platter that I am putting together. I left also with two bags of exquisitely fresh baby arugula that I cannot wait to taste dressed in light vinaigrette topped with shaved hard cheese. Yum!

Eating fresh food from as close to the ground as possible is really good for us. But even more, eating food from a local garden whose soil was created by the farmer who with the look of a proud parent, hands you the jewels from that soil, is a pretty personal, and dare I say, emotional experience. I mean really, it is quite different from the experience you have with an Egg McMuffin breakfast that was handed to you in a paper bag through a window by a well-meaning but tragically underpaid stranger.

Neighborhood tomatoes
Lovely garden jewels

Everything means something, but some things mean more than others. The food we put in our body should be real food, and it should make us strong and happy. It is our body’s fuel, but more than the energy produced by the burning of the calories of this food, there is the energy of the intent and passion of the people whose hands are in the dirt.

The history of humanity is cyclical and just as we once gave up our food producing responsibility in the past to some people, somewhere that we didn’t know, we are circling back to a place where we accept and embrace the experience of raising our own food for our own families in our own neighborhoods. Up-close and personal food is good and good for us.

Wealth Distribution and Longevity — September 4, 2012

Wealth Distribution and Longevity

Healthy at 100 was written by John Robbins in 2006 and here I am in 2012 just discovering this tome. I can’t put this book down because what Robbins says about growing old in western culture is spot on.

He writes about the very real importance of good nutrition and about how exercise will really keep a person vibrant well into the later years. I was looking forward to sharing information about “Keeping Your Marbles,” and “What’s Love Got To Do With It” but I couldn’t stop reading and I got to the section entitled “Wealth Distribution and Human Health.”

There are many places in this book where the writer references the Japanese as having the greatest life expectancy on all the earth and asserts that one of the reasons for this is that it is also economically the most equitable of all the world’s affluent nations. I never heard this but it seems that after WWII, General Douglas MacArthur was given the task of overseeing the nation’s reconstruction and in doing this, economically leveled the playing field between the rich and the poor. His reforms were followed by the most rapid rise in health and longevity ever documented in any major country in world history.

Let’s come back to the United States and take a look at what has happened here since WWII. At the end of this war there were very few homeless people on the streets. Even as late as 1970, homelessness in America was still rare. But since that time economic inequality in this country has grown immensely and this gap has had devastating health consequences.

In his book Robbins says, “History shows that whenever inequality of wealth distribution becomes extreme, people tend to spend less on public health, education, and social safety nets. Large numbers of people feel chronically left out, powerless, anxious, angry and afraid. In such societies, everyone – whether they are “haves” or “have-nots” tends to become less trusting of their neighbors and less inclined to help others. Robbins continues, “The result is higher crime rates, increased violence, and higher rates of heart disease, depression, and many other debilitating and deadly ailments for both rich and poor.” Robbins cites Japan and Sweden as two countries first and second in the world in terms of wealth equality and coincidentally (?) first and second in life expectancy.

Forever Young — August 24, 2012

Forever Young

I just received my Thought for Today Newsletter which is filled with very interesting and useful information from Oprah. Today’s issue has a story about slowing the aging of cells that caught my eye.

Elizabeth Blackburn

Elizabeth H. Blackburn, PhD, won a 2009 Nobel Prize for her research on a tiny bit of cellular machinery that turns out to be a hugely important clue to human health: telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of our threadlike chromosomes (“similar to the plastic tips on shoelaces”) that keep our genetic material safe from damage. Every time a cell divides, as our immune and skin cells regularly do, the telomeres tend to get a little shorter—which makes them an excellent indicator of cellular aging. When telomeres get too short, cells stop working properly. Blackburn and one of her colleagues discovered an enzyme that replenishes and repairs frayed telomeres, helping us stay healthier as we get older.

This enzyme, called telomerase, slows the rate at which telomeres degrade, and research indicates that healthy people with longer telomeres have less risk of developing the common illnesses of aging—like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, which are three big killers today. But telomerase also has the potential to fuel the growth of any cancer cells already lurking in the body. So you don’t want to just dial up a person’s levels. Instead, discover the lifestyle factors that boost telomerase naturally.

A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids is one of the clearest examples. Exercise is another key; enough daily exercise to make you break a sweat. Exercise mitigates the effects of stress—and stress, we know, shortens telomeres. In fact, early studies indicate that stress reduction techniques like meditation help people maintain the length of their telomeres.

Scientists are on the verge of discovering many of telomerase’s secrets that could uncover valuable information to combat aging, fight cancer, and even improve the quality of medical treatment in other areas such as skin grafts for burn victims, bone marrow transplants, and heart disease.

It doesn’t seem very difficult to add some omega-3 to the diet. I love to eat walnuts on my Greek yogurt and I have started adding a tablespoon of ground flax seed to it also. The walnuts go on top of a banana and a handful of blueberries and half a peach when they are in season that I put on there too. I also drizzle on some honey.

When the weather gets cooler I put my toppings on steel-cut oatmeal instead of yogurt and add a dollop of heavy cream. This is so easy and delicious it makes breakfast my favorite meal of the day all year round.

Find foods rich in omega-3 here: http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=84

There are web sites on the internet that offer products that supposedly contain telomerase and that supposedly slow the signs of aging. I don’t know anything about them though.

Professor Elizabeth Helen Blackburn, AC, FRS, FRSN is an Australian-born American biological researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, who studies the telomere.

Thought for Today Newsletter is filled with very interesting and useful information. Just go to oprah.com and sign up for it.

Reaching Our Peak — August 23, 2012

Reaching Our Peak

My sister Barbara told me on my 40th birthday that after 40, life is just one small procedure after another till the big one that takes you out. I am hoping that is not true.

Actually I am 57 and still hanging (in some places lower than others) in there. I probably shouldn’t have said that out loud, but maybe writing something is not like saying it out loud and it won’t happen just because I wrote that it hadn’t happened. Convoluted maybe, but I am sure you get it.

Birthdays like 40, 50 and 60 traditionally bring to you all of those over-the-hill cards and comments about being past your prime. Personally though, I’m not buying it. First of all because it is personal and I refuse to spend the rest of the time I have here looking down the wrong side of said hill. I also dislike the word “over.” Think of how that sounds; over the hill. Well get over it because I am here to tell you that it ain’t over till it’s over and I haven’t even reached my peak yet!

But tradition is tradition and you know how something becomes tradition; by thoughts, beliefs, and actions that are held over a long period of time. Traditional thoughts and beliefs become traditional just by maintaining themselves for a long time and have very little to do with truth or untruth, right or wrong – except for an idea becoming “truth” by having everybody in a culture believing it. Having said this made me think of this old saying:

Be careful what you think, for your thoughts become your words.
Be careful what you say, for your words become your actions.
Be careful what you do, for your actions become your habits.
Be careful what becomes habitual, for your habits become your destiny.

Okinowan, Kiich Sakugawa, 96, with his wife

In western culture we believe it is good to young and not so good to be old. But there are cultures in the world where people age with vitality, strength and grace, and are respected and revered. What are we missing here? Why don’t we get it?

Maybe if we were to change our thoughts about aging we could change what we say about aging. Maybe if we change the way we talk about it, we would change the way we age. Maybe if we change the way we age, we would change the way we think about it. Maybe if we change the way we think about it, we would change the way we talk about age. Maybe if we change the way we talk about it we would change what we believe. Maybe if we all start to believe what we are thinking and saying and doing, we would develop a new traditional thought about aging.

What do you think?

Pooches Partaking of Poops — March 8, 2011

Pooches Partaking of Poops

Is this the profile of an addicted dog?

Listen my children and you shall hear
this allegation that sounds so queer.
My little Boofy is quite the hog
when he finds to eat a goosey log.

Logs, butt kabobs, poopsicles. Whatever you call them they are the disgusting calling card of the Branta Canadensis and my dog, Boofy, just loves to eat them.

Our neighborhood's biggest depositor

It wasn’t so bad until the last snow when the Canadian Geese, in their search for food, traveled a couple of blocks up the road from the lake where they usually stay – right into my neighborhood! Now the whole neighborhood is littered with these amorphous deposits which Boofy will grab and gobble the moment I relax on our once-relaxing walks.

Not only have our walks been ruined, but Boofy’s bum nugget addiction has predictably led to criminal behavior. Boofy is no pup. He is somewhere around twelve years old. He is in great shape and full of vim and vigor, but he loves his yard and never once has made a run for it. That is until now.

The other morning as I watched in disbelief, Boofy dashed across the street after nosing open the gate in a desperate quest for a goose poop snack. He is absolutely driven and driving me crazy.

Does your dog crave the Petite Corona of the sidewalk? Click here to find out what the ASPCA says about the consequences of pooches popping poops.

The Pleasure of Planting — January 24, 2011

The Pleasure of Planting

One of my most comforting pleasures is sitting by a sunny window bathing myself in the warmth of the sun’s rays coming through. I’m doing that right now and I feel like I’m wrapped in warm velvet. I am such a happy cat in fact, that I would be licking my paws right now if I didn’t have to type.

This sun and warmth lead my mind to thoughts of spring, but as I look outside all I see are bare branches and random piles of dirty snow that the sun never got to.

I have a project waiting that I have been putting off for a day just like this one. My friend Bev gave me an herb garden kit for Christmas and today is “the day” for putting it together.

My father was a gardener extraordinaire who would get himself through a Pennsylvania January by studying all of the seed catalogues that came to the house. Planting this herb garden is better than logging seed selections into an order sheet though. I’ve already garnered at least a pound of pleasure through just the anticipation of planting these herbs and my pleasure pulse will only continue to quicken as I check daily for the first sprouting, the healthy growth and the eventual enjoyment of the fresh-cut flavors. I will ride this wave all the way to the budding out of the bushes there outside my sunny window!

Assembled and ready

The seeds included in the kit are; thyme, curled parsley, chives, sweet basil, and cilantro and the pots fit on a rack in a sort-of pyramid arrangement that will be lovely when my babies start to grow. I cut the seed packets at the corner tips, just the way my dad showed me and poured ten tiny seeds into my hand. The hand is a little different now, but the feeling of excitement is just the same as it was back then. I can hear Dad telling me to spread ‘um out a little. “Don’t cover ‘um up too deep.” I know, Dad. You taught me all this stuff.

So, now I have my seeds in their pots with the little labels that my bossy left brain insisted I stick on them. Next, they get soaked with water from a spray bottle so as not to push the seeds around and voila, my little pots of hope are racked and ready. You need the help of your mind’s eye at this point in the process, but it won’t be long.

Here we go now

Thanks Bev. Thanks Dad. I’m glad we could all get together for this little project. I feel sure now that spring is a comin’ and that sunshine pouring through this window will keep me and my herbies happy til it gets here. In the meantime, I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

Honey I Love You! — January 9, 2011

Honey I Love You!

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I love honey and honeybees and I am very concerned about bee decline in the US and around the world. I just read an article in the Huffington Post about Colony Collapse Disorder and how overpopulation and urbanization and pollution and pesticides and climate change are killing the bees. It makes me very sad. But there are concerned professionals out there working to find answers to this crisis.

Do you know anyone who writes about honey in her personal journal? Looking over postings I have entered, I find numerous declarations of my affection for honey. I have been trying different local honey brands lately and have found a brand that has a flavor that I know I could identify in a blind taste test. It is by far the best tasting honey that I have ever eaten and I have only found it in one place. This nectar of the gods is contained in a mason jar with a simple black and white label that reads “Pure Honey Produced by Herman Arvada, Colorado 80002.” I’ve bought it a few times at Edwards Meat Market at 44th and Ward Road in Wheat Ridge.

I was in Edwards, just milling around looking at their specialty foods when my eye fell upon Herman’s honey. I added it to my order and returned home happily anticipating a big spoonful of this “beeliscious” bounty that I had just discovered. Now, after having enjoyed three jars of this honey, I knew I had to meet Herman. I called him up, told him how much I love his honey, he invited me over and we chatted about a subject near and dear to us both.

Herman learned about bees at an early age. Both his father and uncle were beekeepers and in the 1950s in his neighborhood around 1st and Logan, Herman took his first (of many!) swarm, dropped it in a hive and put the hive on the roof of his garage. That was the beginning of the long relationship that Herman maintains with the bees.

I asked him how many times over the years he had been stung and he laughed. He told me, “ I have been stung four and five times in one day, but I have the magic cure for bee stings and I learned it from a beekeeping book printed in German in the 1800s.” That magic cure for bee stings is lamp oil, or kerosene, and Herman has used it many times over the years on himself and other people who have been stung by bees.

Herman once helped a young child who had been stung multiple times. He was driving by in his truck when he saw a disturbance. He jumped out of his truck to help and when he learned what had happened he went with the parents and the screaming youngster into the house and applied kerosene to the child’s stings. The parents couldn’t believe it when their little one stopped crying. When he arrived, the stunned physician said he had never seen anyone stung so many times without pain and swelling.

One day many years ago while shopping for bee supplies, Herman met a man who would become a very important person in his life. The man, Rudolph, a retired state bee inspector from Minnesota, took Herman under his wing, showed him the mistakes he had been making, and taught him everything he knew about bees.

I asked Herman if after 50 years in the bee biz, there was anything that still surprised him. He told me, “I have read, and continue to read about bees and beekeeping every day. But I believe it is important to be a lifelong learner.” He showed me a booklet that he declares the most valuable book that he has ever found on beekeeping. It is unbound and in pieces because so many local libraries and bee enthusiasts want copies of it. This booklet was produced and sold by Montgomery Ward back in 1924.

Herman has a son, Wayne, who kept bees and produced honey and used the money he made to help put him through college. Wayne is now a Senior Entomologist in Washington for the US Department of Agriculture who is studying Colony Collapse Disorder and has been published on the subject. Herman also keeps close ties with apiarists at CSU in Fort Collins studying bees and their decline.

There is a stack of bee industry magazines and catalogues beside Herman’s reading chair in his living room. And as worried as I am about the future of the bees on our planet, it is comforting to know that people like Herman are here raising, studying and looking out for them.

You can buy Herman’s honey at Edwards Meats in Wheat Ridge and at the Golden Grocery in Golden.

What’s Out There in the Hood? — October 31, 2010

What’s Out There in the Hood?

Part of the excitement of taking a walk in your neighborhood is about not really knowing what awaits you. You could meet neighbors walking dogs and/or children. You may see fox or raccoons, or a black cat may cross your path. During the change of this season into winter when everyone around you is sneezing and coughing, you may want to keep your eyes peeled for something a little less obvious but very powerful that you may be passing by.

Rose hips from my fence

Growing all around your neighborhood on rose bushes that were not trimmed back after the blossoms faded are plump red/orange berries growing from where the spent blossoms grew. These “rose hips” are a very potent source of vitamin C and make a subtle and healthy tea to help you ward off the attack of germs trying to get into your body.

Rich in many nutrients, rose hips are a healthy supplement to help maintain good health and prevent colds, flu and infections. In addition, the various flavonoids in rose hips have potent antioxidant action, helping to protect the body from the effects of stress, aging and the environment. During World War II, the British government used collected rose hips to make rose hip syrup as a source of vitamin C to replace citrus fruits that were impossible to get. Native Americans have been using rosehips as tea for thousands of years, and when the tea is finished, the hips were added to stews or soups. There was just too much nutrition in a rosehip to let it go to waste!

Walking itself is good medicine that is found to give a healthier life, including lowering high blood pressure and reducing the risks of stroke. Walking can also ease the symptoms of depression and “the blues” that some people suffer as we roll into winter. So, get up out of your chair and explore your neighborhood. Ask your neighbors if they have rose hips growing on the rose bushes in their yards.

Collect as many rose hips as you can and cut them in half. Next, scrape out the seeds which you can save and cultivate into more rose bushes

Add two tablespoons of cut rose hips to each two cups of boiling water and allow them to simmer for 10 minutes. I like to cover the tea and let it set overnight.

Pour your tea through a coffee filter and sweeten with stevia or honey.

Make enough to share with friends and family who you will find to be very curious about and excited to try this forgotten tonic.

It’s all good and it’s free; walking, talking, and sharing the healthful benefits of rose hips. Right out there in the hood!

It Takes Balls To Be a Salmon — October 19, 2010